Meeting of masters

  • It really is a no-brainer. You ask all the wine-producing regions of the world whether they would like to host a conference of the Masters of Wine, then wait for offers to rain in

Britain's Masters of Wine Institute is the most respected and influential body of its kind in the world, and although not all of its 369 members are in the trade, the ones that are can exert an influence that is possibly disproportionate.

Out of a list of potential candidates running into hundreds, Spain's Rioja region ended up with the prize. It is far from unlikely that the Basque-influenced cuisine had something to do with it. Who wants to go to Argentina and gorge on beef for three days, however good it may be?

The hosts could not have rolled out a plusher red carpet, bringing up from their cellars their best and most valuable vintages: Marqués de Riscal 1955, Vega Sicilia Único 1996, and Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado 2008 were among some of the notable wines on show. Other bodegas, including Muga, Macán, Palacio, Murrieta, Remirez de Ganuza, Murua and Montecarlo, were not slow in coming forward, although it was hard to beat the show put on by Riscal at which dozens of bottles of very old vintages were opened using hot tongs, a measure usually adopted if there is any doubt about the state of the cork. One of Spain's best cava houses, Gramona, produced some of the very few bottles that still remain of the amazing Enoteca 2001, similarly chopped off at the shoulder five weeks earlier (don't ask how it was conserved in the meantime), and Valentín Llagostera, of Mas Doix, generously shared his last remaining bottles of 1902, made with grapes from the oldest vines of the Priorato region.

Possibly the most interesting presentation was that involving wines that could be among the greatest in the future. The owner of Britain's Hambledon Winery demonstrated that the soil of Kent is identical to that of the Champagne region, and the LMVH Group put up a red wine grown on the slopes of the Himalayas. Overall a very worthwhile get-together.